Cycling-European championships in Belarus cancelled by governing body

(Reuters) - Next month's European track championships that were to be held in Minsk have been cancelled due to the volatile situation in Belarus, Europe's cycling governing body (UEC) said on Thursday.

Belarus on Sunday scrambled a warplane to escort a Ryanair passenger jet carrying Roman Protasevich, a journalist critical of Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, in an act denounced by Western countries as "state piracy".

The Elite Track European Championships were scheduled for June 23-27 but the UEC Management Board was forced to reconsider. Germany pulled out on Tuesday and pushed for an "alternative solution".

"We have recently been monitoring the situation with the Belarus Cycling Federation which has now developed into an international debate," UEC president Enrico Della Casa said in a statement.

"Today, during the Management Board meeting, we have decided to cancel the event in Minsk.

"We are already working on finding an alternative solution to enable the riders from our 50 national federations to compete in this season's continental event."

Belarus has been stripped of major sporting events because of a crackdown on anti-government protesters there.

Minsk was originally supposed to co-host the Ice Hockey World Championship with Riga this month but was stripped of the right to do so because of political unrest following a contested presidential election last August and the coronavirus pandemic.

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber in Moscow and Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis)

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